A MODERN DAEDALUS (1887) – By Tom Greer. No, the title’s not referring to James Joyce’s character Stephen Dedalus (sic) but this tale IS about Ireland. The main character is a young man named Jack O’Halloran, a recent college graduate who returns to his native Ireland.
Jack has dreamed about flying since he was a child and now he uses his genius to create a winged apparatus that can be worn by a single person to take to the skies. Our modern Daedalus flies around at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour with his new invention. Jack is thrilled but complications arise when he shares the news with his father.
Old Man O’Halloran wants to use his son’s winged apparatus to wage aerial warfare against the hated British and thereby win independence for Ireland. Our protagonist doesn’t want his invention used for such a blood-soaked purpose and in the ensuing argument his father throws him out of the house.
Jack resumes his work at the home of a friend and one day uses his wing-suit to fly from Ireland to England, causing wild excitement when he lands in London unannounced. Jack marks his newfound celebrity status with a newspaper article about himself and his wing-suit. He wants to mass-produce the flying suits and offers them for humanity’s use at no cost.
To that end O’Halloran demonstrates his wing-suit again, this time for British government bigwigs and they are impressed with the device. However, they practically laugh the young man back to the Emerald Isle over his naive notion about having the government mass-produce the wing-suits and distribute them for free.
British agents plan to use Jack’s device for military purposes, but before they can lean on him about it his father’s comrades launch an armed uprising to drive the Brits out of Ireland. Jack is injured in one of the public panics over the Irish revolt and winds up in a British hospital.
The Brits have O’Halloran’s room guarded and make it very clear to him that if he does not agree to sell them the secret of his wing-suit then they will keep him in custody so that neither the Irish rebels nor England’s Continental foes can possibly lay their hands on the flying machines either.
While Jack cools his heels in captivity the Irish uprising is enjoying large-scale success, humiliating the British army like happened to them in the First Boer War of 1880 to 1881. The way the Brits have treated Jack has made him hate them so, furthering the Daedalus parallel the Irishman plans to pretend to play along with them, then use his wing-suit to escape. With the help of his brother, he does.
Once back in Ireland, Jack helps the rebel cause by churning out several dozen wing-suits. O’Halloran trains the new “pilots” and leads them against the British forces. The Englanders have no answer for the aerial superiority enjoyed by the Irish and Jack’s fliers bomb the hell out of British soldiers and even their ironclad ships.
In the end the British agree to grant Ireland its independence, Jack is a national hero to the newly-freed state, and he oversees the construction and training of hundreds upon hundreds of wing-suits and pilots. ++
FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/
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